Unheard-of masterpieces

Stephen Smith writes (Lounge Music, 14 May): "Before Mancini, soundtrack composers enjoyed the same status as the fleapit pianists who used to bash out an accompaniment to silent pictures. The idea of producing a score, a respectable corpus of sheet music that bore comparison to the director's contribution, was unheard of."

It is an unpleasant device to bolster one person by bad-mouthing another, so let's get it on record that, in many communities, silent-picture pianists were well-respected local personalities. I was born in 1934, too late to have experienced their skills directly, but early enough to have been acquainted with some exponents from those times.

I was also around to have been moved and thrilled directly by such "unheard of" scores as those of Hugo Friedhofer (one Oscar), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (two Oscars), Alfred Newman (eight Oscars), Andre Previn (four Oscars), David Raksin (the best Hollywood composer never to win an Oscar), Miklos Rozsa (three Oscars), Max Steiner (three Oscars) and Franz Waxman (two Oscars). As the memoirs of many directors and stars testify, not only were their scores much appreciated, but in some cases they boosted films with average box-office prospects into higher levels of revenue, eg, Raksin's score for Laura (1944).

Bernard Hrusa-Marlow
Morden, Surrey

This article first appeared in the 21 May 2001 issue of the New Statesman, A spin too far